Review Summary: The Black Angels’ debut is effective in establishing a balance with a heavily-laden drone atmosphere and psychedelic influences, most notably The Velvet Underground.
What a better place to start then a band name that derives from the legendary band The Velvet Underground. The Black Angels’ debut effort entitled ‘Passover’ is extremely catchy despite the lack of coherence that is drowned in sounds of the effective psychedelic atmosphere all over. ‘Passover’ demonstrates how to create an atmosphere with non-stop psychedelic elements drenched with drones on all of these songs. Vocally it isn’t spectacular, but this is because the vocalist Alex Maas isn’t the centerpiece. Instead, we’re thrust in with massive drones and delicious guitar junctures throughout the entire album. Buildups aren’t epic, but are satisfactorily to uplift all of the necessary tools to create an intense album like as ‘Passover’.
This entire album truly oozes out seductive 70’s style despite making me sound contradictory it still holds the present sense of modern music. The hooks are extremely well hidden, not only are the instruments pushed to the forefront, but they’re intensified to a high level. To the point where all you can really focus on are the elementary instruments that make this band up. “Black Grease” is exactly what I’m talking about. The vocals aren’t the centerpiece, but are seductively reclusive regardless of the massive heaviness the background drones, guitar and bass bring.
Much like their biggest influence some of these songs take a critical pattern of repetitive take-a-back-seat drumming while the guitar spirals out of control. What I believe is most recognizable when listening to ‘Passover’ is the fact they take on such great heaviness yet still remain listenable. Something I’d say Black Sabbath had done for quite some time. The problem is ‘Passover’ just may too much for the casual listener, for someone not accustomed to psychedelic music and all of its excessiveness this isn’t the album for you. Strategically manipulating its listener ‘Passover’ will either drown itself in massive bombardment of guitar and drone or opt for a simple repetitive drum session while the vocals are given a chance to finally lead. “Empire” holds the latter, yet the guitar is free to roam around as it pleases. This type of freedom allows the drumming to head up without any problems. The second half of this album really tones it down in style. The vocals are lead unlike most of the album, creating a sense of balance. ‘Passover’ really grips the listener in its entire element. By the time you recognize the drone looms and muddled guitar is prevalent in the background it’s too late you’ve already been taken.
‘Passover’ remains a fantastic accumulation of re-organized ideas of the old with an entirely new band from Austin, Texas. Sure, this isn’t anything new. Re-hash what has been done, but the difference is it doesn’t feel fake or wrong; instead it pleases exactly what we strive for within this album. The Black Angels start from a high peak, but do the psychedelic Texans have it in them to climb higher?